February 28, 2006

Japan Association for Language Education & Technology Conference Call for Papers

In case you were interested, you have slightly less than 2 hours (yikes!) to apply to present at the Japan Association for Language Education & Technology 46th Annual Conference, to be held at Kyoto Sangyo University, August 2-4, 2006. They accept presentations in either Japanese or English. Application is only online, and there is an English application page (as well as a Japanese one).
Language, Education & Technology (Japan) Conference Call for Papers

February 27, 2006

Flappr - Flickr via Flash and Karakorams

Thanks to Moving at the Speed of Creativity, via Ewan's edublogs comes a(nother) cool tool Moving at the Speed of Creativity � Blog Archive � Flickr via Flash and Karakorams:
FlAppr is a flash-based front-end, or interface, for Flickr that requires the latest version of Flash Player (8). Think of FlAppr as an even cooler way to explore Flickr images and connect with Flickr-posting photographers than the “regular” web browsing Flicker website method.

I clicked on the flag of Japan and found this photo.

TechWeb | News | U.S. Hitting A Ceiling On Internet Households

Hm... I was talking to someone just yesterday and I mentioned my feeling that the same might be happening in Japan, at least as far as college students are concerned. There was a time, a few years ago, when interest in computers peaked: lots of people were buying, more and more kids were getting computers at home, some had laptops, some schools were requiring all their students to buy laptops, etc. But more recently, I've noticed a slowing down, maybe even a drop off: students all have cell-phones, and while all students at the various schools I work at have their own school email, I would guess slightly more than half used it only rarely, and that was probably for the 2 or 3 classes where they had to, like computer class!
Does anyone have any facts and figures on this?

Regarding the article linked to below, to say that about 36 percent of U.S. households were not online, and only 2 percent intended to subscribe to an Internet service this year, is not the same thing as saying (as the article does), The vast majority of U.S. households that are not online have no interest in the Web. There are surely other factors, like cost, or the growth of other technologies such as cell-phones, blackberries or whatever. TechWeb | News | U.S. Hitting A Ceiling On Internet Households:
The vast majority of U.S. households that are not online have no interest in the Web, an indication that Internet penetration has stalled, a market research firm said Friday.

A survey of 1,000 U.S. homes showed that about 36 percent of U.S. households were not online, and only 2 percent intended to subscribe to an Internet service this year, according to Parks Associates. The percent of households without Web access extrapolated to 39 million homes.

"We're starting to hit a wall as far as Internet penetration goes," John Barrett, director of research at Parks Associates, said. "We're getting down to the people who just don't want it."

Using Humor in class

Am just posting this for future reference. It touches on several themes I've been contemplating recently.
As institutions of higher education engage in organizational soul searching, the teaching activities of the faculty are receiving increased attention. Scholars in the field of higher education underscore the importance of effective teaching and facilitating student learning outcomes has become a primary concern of university faculty and administrators. Well respected scholars such as Ernest Boyer, Alexander Astin, and Sylvia Grider have highlighted the need for instructional improvement in higher education in recent years. The focus on the student is a fundamental theme in instructional effectiveness (Kher, 1996).

The role of the teacher in producing student-centered learning has been the subject of considerable discussion. Pollio and Humphreys (1996) found effective teaching revolved around the connection established between the instructor and the student. The behavior of the teacher influences the quality of instruction and the learning environment that is created (Lowman, 1994). It is the faculty members who primarily determine the quality of the experience in the classroom (Cross, 1993). Duffy and Jones (1995) describe the professor, content and student as interactive and interdependent, each shaped by the characteristics and requirements of the other two. Lowman found the most common descriptor of effective college teachers was "enthusiastic," and teachers are considered to be both performers and motivators. As Loomans and Kolberg (1993) remarked, enthusiasm and laughter are often infectious.

Teachers must be creative because of the critical role they play in creating an environment conducive to optimal student learning. Humor is often identified as a teaching technique for developing a positive learning environment (Ferguson Campinha-Bacote, 1989; Hill, 1988; Schwarz, 1989; Warnock, 1989; Walter, 1990). When an instructor establishes a supportive social climate, students are more likely to be receptive to learning. Humor is a catalyst for classroom "magic," when all the educational elements converge and teacher and student are both positive and excited about learning. Instructors can foster classroom "magic" through improved communication with students by possessing a playful attitude and a willingness to use appropriate humor (Duffy Jones, 1995).

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Are autonomous learners put off by "self-study courses"?

Again from the AUTO-L archives. A contributor from Africa asked these questions:
I would like to pose questions related to distance learning which have puzzled me for 2 years now. And your answers to them will be vital in partly informing the academic query I am udertaking:

1. To what extent do student presume responsiblity for their own learning in online learning?

2. Why is it that online student drop rate high (in Africa) ?

3. How can we attend to issues of academic dishonesty in student works which I observed to be pervasive?

The synopsis of the context from which I have posed these questions are presented below. I participated in an online (distance) learning program at at Xxx University... At the start of this online program in March 2003, about 35 students registered for the program. Despite the high motivation and a good number of student at the start, the program is now only left with 10 students currently. And the reasons I assume for this significant drop out rate to me is directly or indirectly related to poor student irresponsibilities, academic dishonesty and other unforeseen factors. These are just the uconfirmed assumptions that underpin my inquiry. Given this context, is it possible that other online learning contexts are affected by the assumption that I make in the above three questions? And how do we really overcome them to save every kind of resources which are obviously wasted?

Someone responded, thusly:
Here's an interesting response from a distance educator in Canada to an Ethiopian distance learner questioning the viability of distance education, which suggests that learner autonomy is a discouragement for learners.

'One of the biggest variables,' attrition rates are higher when learner autonomy is a requirement.
----- Forwarded message -----
Subject: Re: Student Responsibility, Academic Dishonesty & Online Learning

Before I could attempt an answer to the questions, I think I need more detail about the nature of the "online learning". You'll find large differences in the answers to your questions depending on the nature of the system and design, any Face-to-face meetings, use of local study centres, types of technology, degree of interaction, type and maturity of students etc. Without this detail, it is like saying why do students hate class room teaching - and the answer is that some do and some don't.

Having noted the above, one of the biggest variables relates to the individual versus collaborative nature of the learning. 'Online learning" can support either but we find our attrition rates are higher when we employ self paced and/or independent study models.
And here's a response to my contribution (my emphasis):
Perhaps the autonomous learner stays clear of courses claiming to offer 'self-guided study.' To equate participation in such a course with being an autonomous learner is like saying the prisoner in solitary confinement is likely to be a monk.
What led up to the situation in which they are in?

> it may be run
> as a course rather (i.e. following a transmission model of learning,
> rather than, say, an acquisition model; see George Siemens' article
> "Learning Development Cycle" here:
> http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/ldc.htm )

I think he's saying the autonomous learner is a round peg in the square hole of the educational system, so let's change the system. In his case, the system of instructional design, from a transmission model to an acquisitional model.

> 2) Online learning involves more than just putting a regular course
> content online. There is also the lost F2F factor to consider. How
> does one get around this? One factor (I seem to remember reading
> somewhere, but can't find the source for the moment) is whether the
> course also offers collaboration opportunities between the
> participants or not, and the degree to which it does so successfully.

As a metaphor, Education Is a Party, a social event.
Are the autonomous learners those who have left, or those who are still part of the system?
Are those who have left still learners? That would be interesting to know.

Where do teachers learn the skills to teach autonomy?

In the Auto-L email list, someone asked this question:
I want to investigate where our teachers learn the skills needed to help students become more autonomous? It seems to me that teachers are expected to "just know" somehow without PD or training.
And someone offered the following answer:
It seems to me that Neil Postman and Charles Weingartner's _Teaching as a Subversive Activity_ offers a pretty practical objective for everyone: to learn how to ask relevant appropriate and substantial questions. Anyone who doesn't know how to do this, they say, can be kept from learning anything. To achieve this objective, they list the following traits of good learners:

1. They have confidence in their ability to learn.
2. They enjoy solving problems.
3. They know what is relevant to their survival and what is not.
4. They rely on their own judgment.
5. They are not fearful of being wrong.
6. They are not fast answerers.
7. They are flexible.
8. They have a high degree of respect for facts and distinguish statements of facts from other kinds of statements.
9. They do not need to have an absolute, final, irrevocable resolution to every problem.

To encourage these features, teachers are supposed to exhibit the following traits:
1. They rarely tell students what they ought to know.
2. They question.
3. They accept no single statement as an answer.
4. They encourage student-student interaction.
5. They rarely summarize the positions taken by students.
6. They develop lessons from the responses of students and not from a previously determined structure.
7. They design lessons which pose problems to students.
8. They measure success in terms of behavioral changes in students.
Any additions, amendments, suggestions? Is this a useful list?

Flickr + Yahoo! Trip Planner

neat idea from the Flickr Blog. Going somewhere soon? Give this a try!

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Challenging the Paradigm of Effective Teaching and therefore "Effective Lecturing" | connect.educause.edu

Another interesting blogpost from Sister Lister
Challenging the Paradigm of Effective Teaching and therefore "Effective Lecturing" | connect.educause.edu:
Dougal MacDonald, suggested that the notion of effective teaching (which MacDonald claims came to us in 1963 from Nathanial Gage) is normative - therefore suggesting there is good and bad teaching (or in our case, good or bad lecturing).Gage's idea is that teaching directly causes learning, while MacDonald counters with the idea that we should be looking at the nature of the interaction as well as the product.

She goes on to mention something I hadn't heard of before, learner-centered lecturing style:
He promotes an alternative success marker for teaching which focuses on "providing students with the opportunity and ability to learn" therefore directly opposing Gage's 'effective teaching' where the sole responsibility for learning lies on the teacher. In MacDonald's "Intentional Concept" focus, there must also be an acceptable balance found between indoctrination ("Because I said so") and Abandonment (direct teacher intervention is discouraged).

MacDonald's challenges to the idea of effective teaching can be applied to the learner-centered lecturing style we are attempting to cultivate in our proposed learning object.Although the lecturing style has little to do with abandonment, traditional lectures certainly tread upon the grounds of preaching and indoctrination. Here are more of MacDonald's thoughts about teaching - notice how the word "lecturing" can easily be substituted.

blogs | connect.educause.edu

Susan Lister of Nipissing University asks, Do Podcasts Justify the Lecture Method of Teaching?:
I thought the only ones keeping lecturing alive as a viable teaching method were traditionalists who had no interest in applying alternative learning modes.
Then along comes a medium that attempts to mate dinosaurs and virtual pets. Is podcasting causing a revival in the lecture method? But we barely got to see a glimpse of constructivism in the lecture hall and co-operative learning methods were just poking their heads in the door! Now we’re back to information delivery.
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Ken's Meme Deflector: XBlogThis!: An Extended BlogThis! Button

I've had this bookmarklet called XBlogThis! on my toolbar for so long I've forgotten what it's for. Well, a quick Google search produced the answer, which I knew. I'd just forgotten. So here's me giving it a whirl. I've also got the Firefox Blogger Toolbar, so the only this bookmarklet does is add Technorati tags, which I could never be bothered to add manually. But I don't use Technorati!! Not to worry, there's a delicious one over here.
Ken's Meme Deflector: XBlogThis!: An Extended BlogThis! Button:
If you keep a with Blogger, you have probably come across the BlogThis! button. It is small bit of Javascript that you can add as a button to your bookmark toolbar that generates a post from the text that you have highlighted on a page.

Casting the Net Podcast

A series of podcasts about podcasting, iTunes, Video iPod, Audacity, Ourmedia.org and other ed-tech talk. Haven't listened yet, but will download and listen while commuting tomorrow.

Setting up class wikis for schools

Susan Sedro in Minnesota, U.S., has some thoughts as she helps a colleague create wikis for his classes.

  1. They need to be readable by families and other schools.
  2. They need to be protected to some degree from spam, but still allow outsiders to leave comments.
  3. They need to track who makes what changes, so we can track malicious editing back to the person who did it.
Moodle fails #1, PBWiki fails #3. Only Wikispaces can hack all three, but
Wikispaces meets all three criteria, but at a price. Each child receives a separate invite. Accepting the invitation makes them a member of Wikispaces and of our wiki. Since each child is a separate member, the wiki can track which user makes which changes.

But a Wikispaces person comments:

At Wikispaces, when teachers need accounts for students who don't have email addresses we create the accounts for them in batches. The teacher just sends us a list of usernames and passwords which we create and which they can dole out as appropriate. Email addresses aren't neccessarily needed.

February 25, 2006

Blogging from Aquarium: Microsoft's, Yahoo's and Google's synergism

Blogging from Aquarium: Microsoft's, Yahoo's and Google's synergism As one's online identities multiply, how does one keep track? How to simplify? Here're some thoughts on the subject, with some links to possible "glues" in the near future. And here's one suggestion from the comments to that post: Omea

Anyone tried it out yet? Anyone want to?

EdCompBlog: Ewan @ Jordanhill

EdCompBlog: Ewan @ Jordanhill
Here's a blog-post (by David Muir of Glasgow) of Ewan Macintosh giving a talk about Web2.0 to students at Jordanhill, the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow - Scotland's largest Teacher Education Institution. Ewan Macintosh is a great ambassador for ed-tech, and unsurprisingly there's a neat idea right out of the box:
One of the things he did that I thought was really cool was to interview some of the students as they arrived in the lecture hall. He took their photo with his camera phone and recorded their replies with his iRiver. Then, while I was doing my spiel, he added this stuff to his presentation so it was ready to use when it came to his turn to speak to the students. Brilliant! Digital native or what?
And here's part 2 in which David Muir talks about Delicious, tagging and Flickr. Part 2 includes links to videos of
Ewan's lecture on blogs and podcasts and Web 2.0 and educational uses for all of the above!
David Muir's lecture on social networking tools.

And here's Ewan's side of the story, including a link to the actual presentation as a QuickTime mp4 file. Ewan's presentation is excellent, including lots of fascinating statistics a la Steve Jobs, like the number of iPods sold in the first quarter of 2004 (in the UK? worldwide? Oops, I wasn't paying attention) - 4 million - then the number sold in the first quarter of 2005 - 14 million!

Blogs offer a meaningful way to utilize the power of information and communication technologies for project-based and problem-

Blogs offer a meaningful way to utilize the power of information and communication technologies for project-based and problem-
Having been away from this EVO course on blogging for a while, I went back and looked at the syllabus for Week 5 (see link above). In it I found a link to web usability-guru Jakob Nielsen's article on blog usability, but I was most impressed with the EVO blog syllabus writer who edited this down to a short list of 10 points, which I repost here for your (actually MY) edification and perusal, and being unable to not stick my nose in, have added my 2 pennies' worth:
  1. Include author biographies to give your site credibility
    I once listened to a radio show which included a confrontation between 2 famous political bloggers, Andrew Sullivan and Atrios. Sullivan was castigating Atrios for hiding behind anonymity, saying this cast a poor light on his credibility. But I completely disagree, as well as sympathizing with Atrios' reasons for not coming out and saying who he is (he lives in a small town and has no wish for his blogging activities and freedoms to have any effect on his job or family environments). And I don't feel that his anonymity has any bearing on the value of what he writes.

  2. Include author photo to enhance credibility

  3. Assure posting titles are clear—not just for human readers but also for search engines and newsfeeds.
    Good point, hadn't thought of that. It makes sense, for search purposes, then, to keep postings to single topics, like a paragraph.

  4. Tell readers where a link will take them rather than just writing “click here”.
    I usually do this only for PDF files, because I prefer the clean look rather than complete URLs littering the page, but perhaps a little description might not go amiss. (There was a time when I favoured the minimalist approach, as in "for more info on this, click here, here, here or here.")

  5. Highlight the better posts in your blog and make links to them yourself

  6. Categorize posts by subject as an alternative to categorizing only by date.
    Another good idea. Trouble is, blogger doesn't have a categorization system, and I'm too lazy to make one myself.

  7. Publish on a regular basis so readers can anticipate posts.
    Rendered more or less irrelevant by RSS, I would think.</LI>
  8. Be consistent in your range of content—the more focused your content, the more focused your readers will be

  9. Think about how your blog will look to a hiring manager in 10 years.
    Hm! Thanks! How about showing my blog now and asking for a raise?

  10. Consider paying for a personal domain name if you are serious about blogging. If your domain name is owned by a weblog service they they own your destiny on the internet.
    Can't argue with that, especially when even pros like Ewan Macintosh can erase his entire blog with a couple of clicks.

McGraw-Hill PageOut®

McGraw-Hill PageOut®
PageOut, an alternative to Moodle? If you've either one, either as a student or an instructor, I'd love to hear from you.

Using Moodle for Language Learning

Integrating ICTs into a University Language Curriculum: Can it be done successfully? Altho it's nearly 3 years old, I got a lot out of this paper (PDF! warning) by Peter Ruthven Stuart, then at Hokuriku University, now at FUN! Also, from this paper Stuart wrote on using Moodle to teach language: An LMS from the Ground up (a PDF)

leading and learning: Inspired by Albert Einstein

leading and learning: Inspired by Albert EinsteinIt was interesting to read Bruce Hammonds' piece on Einstein, and then to read this one over at Renaissance Project, for whom Einstein has also been a big inspiration.

February 24, 2006

Are we doing anything today?: Reading Lecture

Are we doing anything today?: Reading LectureSomeone should make me read this any time I start getting on my soapbox with students.

And what I want to know is how did this "failing F student" come around? What's his story? And why isn't Fred telling us?!?!?

Project Renaissance, Winsights, Part 87, "The Ideal School" (November/December 2005)

Project Renaissance, Winsights, Part 87, "The Ideal School" (November/December 2005) I mentioned the link to the Project Renaissance in a comment to a post by Dave Warlick. Since writing that comment I've been clicking around in the site, and came across this prospectus for a new kind of university, this quick overview of different kinds of educational approaches and their drawbacks, and this suggestion for tweaking summer school. Intriguing stuff. I'll need time to read and digest.

Storytelling vs classroom learning - which is more valuable?

So I'm surfing the web, clicking on links generated by an email I got from this organization, and I end up here.:
According to Kathryne Macgrath Speaker (2002), 'Children involved in storytelling programs exhibit improved listening skills, better sequencing abilities, increased language appreciation and more thoughtful organization in their own writing.' (p.184) As Speaker indicates, storytelling can be a very important tool for learning in the classroom.
That's as much as I can take. I click and move on.

But wait! What's so wrong with this? What's got me upset? I go back, and ponder, then I find it: it's the subjugation of storytelling to learning in the classroom. It's the idea that storytelling is not as important or valuable as classroom learning. It's like saying, "cheerfulness and joie de vivre are useful tools in classroom learning." Ignoring the fact that these things are valuable and desirable in their own right, regardless of their value as tools for classroom learning.

Do I have a point here, or is time for me to take my tablets?

February 23, 2006

First year teacher - a movie

Anita also links to an excellent, short (35 mins) documentary about teachers and teaching. The cameras folow five young teachers in their first year of teaching in Los Angeles schools. It might remind you of why you became a teacher, or make you reconsider why! But also, I thought, what a cool way to introduce American-style classrooms to people who haven't ever been there. Have EFL or education students watch this and give their reactions: what things surprised you, impressed you? What did you notice that was the same as/different from schools/teachers in your own country?

This is really well worth watching. My favourite quote:
What can pull these kids into school? What can make them interested? And make them want to learn?...Obviously kids need to know how to read. They need to know how to write. But they also need to know that they're good people. And, some of them don't. That's my job: to tell them I'm happy that you're here at school today; I'm happy to see you.
I saw teachers and young people struggling in a Kafkaesque world. Another quote I remember: a young boy who has a very hard time with English is finally, after huge efforts by his teacher, hooked up with a speech therapist. We see the boy and the speech therapist together for a few minutes. Then, as the two go hand-in-hand down the stairs and disappear out of sight, the teacher's voice-over: "That's all the time he got with the speech-therapist this year". Kafkaesque, I tellya!
Thanks, Anita.

More on teaching

Here's something someone wrote me in an email:
Teaching is its own reward even if they do not SEEM to be learning.
What do you think?

Bubbleshare - how to do a great slideshow

Anita of Slovenia is learning a lot very fast on her blog for the EVO blogging course. She does a good job of introducing both her country (Slovenia) and a new kind of photosharing software called Bubbleshare in this neat little slide show, introducing herself and her loves.

February 22, 2006

IIID Gunther Kress: Reading Images: Multimodality, Representation and New Media

IIID Gunther Kress: Reading Images: Multimodality, Representation and New Media
In a different context (the relevance of Vygotsky's sociocultural theory of learning to EFL/ESL using drama methods), I came across the writings of Gunther Kress, who is head of the School of Culture, Language and Communication, in the Institute of Education, University of London. One of his research interests is multimodality.

I came across the reference to Kress in an email by John Haught. Haught was replying to a question from a reader:
Q: How does multimodal learning introduce an element of alterity in classroom discourse?
A: The traditional IRE classroom Initiation-Response-Evaluation) fails to tap into the varied learning styles of your diverse classroom. Whether you call it ‘multiple intelligences’or something else, multi-modal learning permits not only the appeal to different learning styles, but results in recursive learning as the student encounters the material from different perspectives. Drama is a powerful way to integrate a number of different learning modalities. Multi-modal learning has been addressed in depth by Gunther Kress & others of late. Very timely with the advent of the "new literacies" surrounding changing technologies.
A quick Google search brought up this article by Kress, in which he compares reading a book and reading a web page. A double-page spread from a book of pure text has just one entry point - the top left-hand corner, whereas a web-page can have any number of entry points; he uses as example the home page of the Institute of Education in which he counts 13 entry points. He adds:
The [double-] page [spread] ... has one entry point, at the top left of the page; it had long become naturalized and therefore was no longer visible. Nor was the reading path: it asked the reader to follow the lines, in the order in which the culture had determined. The page/screen ... has, by contrast, about 13 entry points. The reader interest determines where he or she wishes to enter the page. The same applies to the ‘reading path’ which the reader (now usually called a ‘visitor’) wishes to construct: it too is determined by the reader’s interest.

For design this is a crucial factor, and a profound change. The designer of such ‘pages’ / sites is no longer the ‘author’ of an authoritative text, but is a provider of material arranged in relation to the assumed characteristics of the imagined audience. The power of the designer is to assemble materials which can become ‘information’ for the visitor, in arrangements which might correspond to the interests of the visitor. For the visitor however “Information is material which is selected by individuals to be transformed by them into knowledge to solve a problem in their life world” (Boeck, 2002)...
Writing can appear on the screen; but when it does it is subordinated to the logic of the image... The logic image will more and more shape the appearance and the uses of writing, a process which is already apparent in many instances of public communication. (my emphasis)

To: Professor@University.edu Subject: Why It's All About Me - New York Times

To: Professor@University.edu Subject: Why It's All About Me - New York Times
I got here via Sarolta's blog. It's an article about the increasing number of emails students send to their college teachers, and the growing lack of deference (or even good sense) these messages reveal. As I scanned the article, I wasn't particularly interested, as I rarely get emails from my students, and I would be glad to get more (tho the article pointed out a possible, unpleasant aspect to that state of affairs I hadn't envisaged). But it was this paragraph that caught my attention:
Christopher J. Dede, a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education who has studied technology in education, said these e-mail messages showed how students no longer deferred to their professors, perhaps because they realized that professors' expertise could rapidly become outdated. "The deference was probably driven more by the notion that professors were infallible sources of deep knowledge," Professor Dede said, and that notion has weakened.

. Naughty, naughty Internet! Naughty digital age!

English Teacher Discussion Forum

English Teacher Discussion Forum Making language-learning materials can be very hard work, as demonstrated by JH and his colleague here. I hope they both got paid overtime for this. It sounds from the grunts and groans that this particular production might have possibly been injurious to their health, which would be ironic, considering who they were making the material for. Not only did they create the dialogue but an audio to go with it, which is not to be missed (worksafe). I hope you're feeling better today, JH.

February 21, 2006

Alex Halavais » Blog Archive » Cheating Tech

Alex Halavais » Blog Archive » Cheating Tech
via Will Richardson, writes:
In many ways, the propensity for students to cheat on the exams is a symptom of an educational system that has failed. If we cannot teach our students the value of learning, rather than the value of the GPA, we really are not very good at our job.
I was discussing with a colleague today the propensity of students to focus with concentration on getting the credits, passing the course, sometimes to the exclusion of any kind of learning. We wondered, have they given up? Have they been brainwashed by the system? Or perhaps they have been well trained? The system says, "you want a job? You gotta have these qualifications. You want these qualifications, you gotta go through us. We say, you get the qualifications if you show up for 4 years". Then we wonder why students are more concerned about how many classes they can miss without endangering their grade, than about learning anything real. What planet are we living on?!? Perhaps we, the teachers, are the weird ones, the oddballs, who still, quaintly, believe that attending an educational institution is primarily about learning?

My colleague originally developed the idea for dividing a class up into self-contained sub-units, each working semi-autonomously using different media. What prompted him to do so, was when he realized that in one "speaking and listening" class, all he was doing was playing the play button on video and audio machines (why he was doing this is a matter beyond the scope of this blog). We considered the following scenario: the students AND the administration believe that this is exactly what the teacher should be doing. What choice does the teacher have? It then comes down to the extent to which the teacher is willing to tolerate boredom.

2 Cents Worth » Happy Birthday Jude

Dave Warlick writes:
No generation in history has ever been so thoroughly prepared for the industrial age.

As Will Richardson comments, Whoah!

February 16, 2006

MFLE - Language Ambassadors in modern foreign languages

MFLE - Language Ambassadors in modern foreign languages
This is such a cool idea. I got it from one of Ewan Macintosh's many pages.

I made a wiki for this project. Want to join? Email me.

jerome bruner and the process of education

jerome bruner and the process of education
I've just tagged this page, which I came to via this article which mentioned Bloom's Taxonomy, Maslow's Hierarchy and Bruner's Spiral Curriculum, of which three I was unfamiliar with the third. Ted Sizer quotes Bruner quite a bit. I notice, too, that one of Bruner's students was a young Howard Gardner.

BBC - Science & Nature - Climate Change

BBC - Science & Nature - Climate Change:
We need the computer power you're not using. Join in the largest climate prediction experiment ever, developed by climate scientists for the BBC using the Met Office climate model.

Click on the link to find out more. If you use a computer at work, make sure you have permission before installing the program.

The Lost Nomad: Coast Guard

The Lost Nomad: Coast Guard
(short Flash video)
Pronunciation is soooo important, innit?

February 14, 2006

Innovate - Special Issue on the Net generation

This is a call for papers to be published in a special issue of Innovate on the implications of the Net (echo boomer) generation for teaching and learning.

In a recent blog, one Internet maven described how his 15-year-old son made a live VOIP telephone call from his digital camera. No, the camera wasn't designed for that but, yes, he was able to make it work. He is not alone. We have a tsunami of very different people headed for our campuses. You might view the situation as the ocean having just retreated from the shore, with the mass of the real wave just about to appear.

The new generation in secondary schools and arriving on college campuses has been referred to with a variety of names: Millenials, Echo Boomers, and the Net Generation. The latter is the term used by Diana and Jim Oblinger in their recent EDUCAUSE book, Educating the Net Generation. The expectations, attitudes, and fluency with technology of this new generation presents both a challenge and an opportunity for education. How can educational institutions plan now for these challenges? What will be effective teaching and learning strategies for this generation? How are students using technology? What are the expectations of this generation? How might they transform higher education during their matriculation?

These are some of the questions well worth trying to answer in a special issue of Innovate. Terry Calhoun, of the Society for College and University Planning, and Chris Davis of Baker College are the guest editors for this issue. Please follow our submission guidelines and send your manuscript to the guest editors and to me by July 30, 2006

February 13, 2006

Bee - coming a Webhead: Full House

Bee - coming a Webhead: Full House Thanks to Bee, I found the transcript of the TappedIn session with Ewan Macintosh. Ewan, who teaches French and German in a Scottish high school, had some interesting things to say. Here's a sample:
  • How do you motivate kids who believe they will make more money from being a family plumber or joiner?

  • Keep these kids interested in my potentially lethally boring and irrelevant subject by making it relevant. The easiest way, honestly, was to use technical means.

  • the next best step was to use the incredibly powerful tech that kids bring with them every day to school (and which we ban in our schools): Mobile phones were the first thing I used.

  • To record information from pupils (speaking assessment for practice, for example)... Also, using mobile phones or personal CD players (this is BEFORE the mp3 player) to record information that kids could use for practice or revision.

  • In 2003 I went to Canada (New Brunswick) on a study trip funded by the League for the Exchange of Commonwealth Teachers. I looked at how immersion French was done in 8 schools, from elementary to secondary. There was one common and very successful factor - COLLABORATIVE LEARNING

  • Think of someone you know who doesn't teach as well as you think they could. Does that person work collaboratively with other teachers? Does that person share their resources or keep them in their cupboard? Does that person moan more than they congratulate their students? So, how can you BEGIN to talk blogging and wikis and podcasts with people whose attitude is actively AGAINST sharing?

  • we've just had the kind of discussion that happens when you talk to teachers about blogging who have no experience of working collaboratively. At the recent European Centre for Modern Languages BLOGS Project, for which I am helping run blogs in Scotland.... collaborative learning came out as the first issue - a positive one you'd think... But straight after there were discussions about ASSESSMENT. "If kids are working collaboratively how can they be assessed?"

  • My answer, along with others, was that not everything had to be assessed, that the learning outcome from working together and working on peer assessment was more valuable. This ended up being the main block for teachers getting blogging.

  • a portfolio is, by its nature, a FINAL product; it implies that learning has stopped.

  • I started blogging first of all on school trips. We ran an annual school triup to France and wanted to keep in touch, more than any kind of grand educational claim.
    What happened was, in fact, highly educational.

Anecdote: Will the community of practice get started? A test and the effect of titles

Anecdote: Will the community of practice get started? A test and the effect of titles This looks another interesting post. I recently suggested using email/Yahoo!Groups or blogs to (re-)create a community/communities which seem to have lapsed into a dormant state. So now I'd better figure out just how to do that...

How to set up a student centered classroom blog.

MHetherington.net » Blog Archive » How to set up a student centered classroom blog. This looks really useful and well done, and I just want to blog it for future reference. I hope to do this next semester (April), and I have been pondering whether to have all my students create blogger.com blogs, or 1 common blog or both, and what about privacy and everything, so this was good to read.
And thanks to the indefatigable James for the link.

Blogging Vacation | Smelly Knowledge

Blogging Vacation | Smelly Knowledge Another blogger bytes the dust. And he only just got there! Oh, well, at least he had time to read and greatly expand on this.

Farewell, Smelly.

Haaretz - Israel News - I ll blog your house down

Haaretz - Israel News - I'll blog your house down Story of an Iranian blogger who is using a new language to prompt young Iranians to get involved in politics, and angering the government at the same time. He recently visited Israel (risking Iranian authorities' ire yet again), and spoke there about the need to avoid the demonization of each other's countries, a task for which he feels blogs are particularly apt:
"I am trying to show Israelis that there are lots of people like myself living in Iran, with the same moderate ideas about Israel and the world. Most Iranians want normal relations with Israel, and do not view Israelis as bloodthirsty Jews who want to kill all Muslims, which is how the regime tries to portray them." As expected, one of the common subjects in Derakhshan's conversations with Israelis is fear of the moment Iran completes the development of nuclear weapons. Derakhshan denounces and opposes any idea of an external attack in an attempt to destroy nuclear weapons. "When the world focused on stopping Iran's development of nuclear arms, it led to the electoral defeat of a moderate president and the rise to power of a more radical president," explains Derakhshan. "I understand the fear of nuclear arms, but the focus has to be on democratic means and not on halting nuclear development. If the bomb is in the right hands, it won't be dangerous at all."

BEYOND NORTHERN IRAQ: mail2bni@yahoo.co.uk

Via BEYOND NORTHERN IRAQ: mail2bni@yahoo.co.uk comes a link to the annual World Press Photo awards. Of course, if you are too cheerful, and want a quick lesson in humanity's screwed priorities, or some reminders of just how inhuman humans can be to each other, there is no shortage of material here. But there are also some uplifting ones, tho they take a bit of digging to find. The sports ones are pretty stunning. Here are my 3 favourites. Which are yours?

February 12, 2006

Asking the right questions

I started writing a comment on Aaron's post here, but it got so ridiculously long, that I'm writing it here instead.

The questions Aaron asks in his final paragraph are the key ones, of course, but as they stand they invite a negative response. The questions need to be rephrased, and that involves also rephrasing/re-thinking pf other related issues. Tho Ted Sizer wrote these words 20 years ago or so, they are still relevant, I think, and at the risk of losing readers, I will reproduce his thoughts in full (or at least the main relevant points):
The school's goals should be simple: that each student master a limited number of essential skills and areas of knowledge. ... less is more should dominate curricula....Teaching and learning should be personalized to the maximum feasible extent.... The governing practical metaphor of the school should be student-as-worker rather than the more familiar metaphor of teacher-as-deliverer-of-instructional-services. Accordingly, a prominent pedagogy will be coaching, to provoke students to learn how to learn and thus to teach themselves...

He then describes some of the principles followed by the Coalition of Essential Schools:
Essential Schools ask their students to exhibit their work and to earn their high school diploma by means of demanding public Exhibitions. .. The schools ask for performances of each accomplishment rather tokens of these efforts, such as standardized tests taken in isolation and without the challenge of follow-up questions....All sorts of provocations can work well as Exhibitions, from Socrates' questions in his ancient garden to some of the better brain-teasers found in puzzle books.... With Exhibitions, the students must expect to be challenged. ... The idea of Exbitions derives as much from common sense as from custom.. We do not judge a high school's marching band and the individual players within it on the basis of brief snippets of taped music and videos of the marching.. What is expected should be clear, and the school must be able to justify it readily to students and their parents as worthy ofd serious effort on its own terms not just something to do well at to "get a good grade" and then to discard... Exhibitions have forced faculties to relate these expectations to their particular students. Given where our students are... what do we start with, what do we stick to, what must be done above all else? Typically faculties rarely talk collectively of these matters. The Exhibitions provide a powerful impetus to do so.
If students are to understand deeply, less is more.
The students have to do the work. We learn when we engage, the more intensely the better. ... Having high and clearly worth expectations for young people gives them dignity. ... dignity or something like it is a treasure... Unchallenged kids get the message. If adults expect little of them... expect them to goof off, then they will goof off. Of course, some people will goof off no matter what expectations are set. But teachers should assume the highest standard of performance until they are shown that it is not forthcoming. This is the proper start for each young person's education... more often than not, adolescents rise to the occasion.
Human-scale places are critical. "I cannot teach well a student whom I do not know."
Adults must be interesting and confident.... Students are energized by adults who are excited about what they are doing. Gusto counts.

[Horace's Hope, by Theodore Sizer]

Sizer has obviously thought a lot about these issues; he has visited many, many schools, and spoken with many, many teachers, students, principals, administrators, in schools which have embraced change, schools which have just started to do so tentatively, and schools which haven't changed anything at all. Referring to Dennis Littky's school in New Hampshire, Sizer writes,
Thayer's experience, however, reinforces the point that schools are complex, interrelated entities and that change of any consequence has to reflect this. Tepid change is no change at all, or worse, if it corrodes the energy of the risk-takers.
Later in the same book, he notes,
the leap from traditional school practice to commonsense reform is for most Americans a heroic one
; and further on,
When the changes embodied in the Coalition's 9 common principles are fully implemented both inside the classroom and in the school as a whole, the effects are consistent, beneficial, and significant. Such schools have increased student engagement in academic work and raised student achievement and parent, teacher and student satisfaction.; they have had a positive effect on student behaviour and promoted equity in achievement among different groups of students. In addition, several studies identify which changes have the most impact and show how best to support the changes. A clear and strong finding across studies is that the more fully the changes are implemented, the more powerful their effect is.

These ideas address the fact that there are deep and understandable disagreements not only among citizens but among experts on just what an excellent education might be and how we would know it when we saw it....
These ideas will challenge, directly or by circumvention, the elaborate thickets of educational regulation, certification, and accreditations, which more often than not reflect the vagaries of past academic politics and distrust of local authorities rather than considered and proven practices. ...
But these ideas force a test of the proposition that healthy democracy depends on an ultimate trust in and and of the people, no matter how small the unit in which the people are gathered for a particular purpose is. Either we trust people or we don't.

This last sentence reveals Sizer's understanding that the idea of basing education on the needs of the learner, and on the way humans really learn (rather than on an industrial model which is essentially designed to manage populations for the benefit of corporations) is pretty radical, and impinges on many facets of schooling. Piecemeal change, he suggests, is not only not desirable, but not real change at all. It was after reading Sizer that I posted tthis. Some teachers/bloggers writing about technological effects on teaching and learning seem to appreciate just how big and radical the implications of the technology and its potentials are. Aaron has just joined the club!

February 09, 2006

English speech contest winner

A Korean/Japanese high school boy, Mimatsu, has won an English speech contest in Osaka this evening. The topic of his speech was his biculturalism. He referred to his Korean name and his Japanese names, and how it feels to be both. He closed his speech with a short sentence in Korean, which he translated into English as "I love both Korea and Japan." Cut to dewy-eyed highschool girls clapping loudly. This was mentioned on primetime national news programs this evening. I don't begrudge him his win - he spoke well and with a clear delivery - but I wonder why this is such "big" news. Is it because NHK think will help improve relations between the two countries, and between the Japanese and Japan-born Koreans who make up a not insignificant minority here.

I remember there was a Japan-born Korean student at my university about 10 years ago. She had been registered as a student under her Japanese name, but she decided to "come out" and insisted the administration use her Korean name for her registration. Needless to say, the administration complained, but did her bidding. It would not have been good PR to refuse, now would it, boys and girls.

Asahi.com: a dramatic way to teach about HIV

asahi.com:A dramatic way to teach students about HIV - ENGLISH

Higa teaches at the Okinawa prefectural Shuri-Higashi High School here. Higa became interested in the AIDS issue about 14 years ago and decided to write a classroom instruction guide for other teachers. As he taught the subject over the years, Higa began to think that a dry lecture setting was not the way to impart the immense emotional suffering that HIV brings to people. He decided to write a play with his students. Their first version was produced in 2001, with 40 students, 30 cast members and 10 stage-hands. The play focuses on an individual living with HIV, how that person comes to terms with the threat of developing full-blown AIDS and how society treats him. "Our message aims right at the heart, not the mind, and creates an opportunity for people to understand each other, heart-to-heart," Higa says. It moved the audience so much that, after a performance outside his school, students from other schools who had watched it clamored to join the cast. So Higa decided to make an annual production, using a fresh cast of students from several high schools. He also encouraged the students to update their lines to reflect the current state of the battle against AIDS. The title changes with each new version.

Japanese 18th century whodunit for kids

A husband and wife team in New York, Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler, who have never visited Japan, have created a numer of mystery stories for young adults, based on a real Japanese character, Judge Ooka. "Ooka Tadasuke (1677-1752) was a real-life Edo magistrate renowned for his wisdom and fairness in solving difficult cases."

But it was this bit that caught my eye. More evidence of Dumbing Down?
Publishers are funny," Tom says. "They were not interested in The
Ghost in the Tokaido Inn, I think because they thought it would
[contain] too much information. They have a very low opinion, we're
sorry to say, of American schoolchildren...That doesn't help, when you
can't publish books that have any kind of a challenge to them at all.

Gluing student blogpages together

Rudolf at Dekita.org points out the desirability of having students' individual blogs "glued" together in some way. He tries suprglu but is also looking at alternatives.

If we’re serious about facilitating our students’ participation in authentic exchanges,
then it might be a good idea to make their work more accessible to the
Net at large. One way of doing this would be to aggregate their
individual weblogs into a separate site: pull along their feeds, merge
them into a single stream of posts, repost. Rip, mix, burn.

To illustrate, I have just plugged a bunch of student feeds (aka “sources”) into tawawa.suprglu:
the result looks like a pretty convenient gateway through which a group
of student bloggers could be approached from the outside.

Obviously, though, Suprglu is not the answer. ... I’m looking into viable alternatives.

A whole new mind

I came across Daniel Pink's orange business book several months ago and added it to my wish list, but nobody bought it for me so I haven't read it yet. I also subscribed to his blog, and visited it today for the first time in a while. Some interesting tidbits:

"According to College Board data, there was a 44 percent increase from
1996 to 2005 in the number of high school seniors who say that they
plan to major in visual and performing arts," says Inside Higher Ed."

Friday roundup :
One out of three parents plays video games.
-- Brain fitness -- mark my words: this is going to be a huge business -- depends in part on "brain reserve," according to this interesting Australian study.

Rebooting on the right side of the brain: Last year marked the first time in four years that Silicon Valley showed a net increase in jobs... But the types created offered an intriguing look into the future.... the data "suggest 'a new face of Silicon Valley,' one that is moving
away from an engineering-oriented economy to an idea-oriented one that
demands highly creative people to produce technology that conveys an
'experience,' such as Apple Computer Inc.'s iPod digital music player."

Davos man gets a whole new mind?
In its preview of the upcoming World Economic Forum in Davos, Business Week says, "The global management paradigm is clearly shifting from left to right brain thinking."

And my favourite,
Truthy, not facty
The American Dialect Society has selected its 2005 Word of the Year. It's truthiness, "the quality of preferring concepts or facts one wishes to be true, rather than concepts or facts known to be true." Congratulations to (Northwestern grad) Stephen Colbert. Read more here.

Would that be the Stephen Colbert of the Today Show?

Morphogenetic Fields And Beyond

Rupert Sheldrake - Morphogenetic Fields And Beyond I'm really not sure what to make of this. Quite extraordinary. Someone wrote the following comment after reading this site:
The phenomenon of
simultaneous introduction of innovative theory and
product from various parts of the planet at
approximately the same time (as articulated through
the idea of the collective unconscious) (Jung) would
support this concept.

I was reminded of this page today when I read Will Richardson's letter of resignation, especially this part:
But there is energy and a potential in this tool (and the others) and in these connections that for me, at least, is incredibly intriguing. One thing is clear: something important is happening. I'm not sure yet what it means for the world or for education or (your noun). But I am sure what it means for me.

UPDATE: here's a quote from the article to whet your appetite:
If these ideas are correct, then the "storehouse of memory" is not the least bit private since morphogenetic fields are universally available and continue to exist regardless of what happens to their original source. The only thing that makes our mental processes seem private is that we naturally resonate most strongly with our own past mental states. In other words, each of us broadcasts on a unique channel to which, generally, no one else listens. Yet in principle, someone else could tune into "your" memory and thoughts, and indeed, in practice, we do - as the common experience of "reading" another person's mind attests.

These ideas can be carried further to consider what happens when many people have a similar thought. The information stored in the morphogenetic field should then be stronger and accessible over "more channels." In that case we would expect it to be easier for new people to also "have" that thought (or skill, insight, or whatever). One aspect of this would be the creation of what Jung called the collective unconscious.

What proof is there that these ideas have any validity? One and a half years ago when I wrote the article about morphogenetic fields for IC #6, most of the experimental support for Sheldrake's ideas came from the reinterpretation of old experiments. One of the most intriguing involved teaching rats to run a particular maze. Each new generation of rats learned it faster even though there was no direct physical way for any generation to pass its learning on to the next. Since then, a variety of new experiments have been performed. To catch up on these, I spoke with Rupert Sheldrake for the latest results...

Focussing on weaknesses, or strengths?

Weblogg-ed - The Read/Write Web in the Classroom :
Great quote from Kathy Sierra here on Will Richardson's blog:
Maybe instead of working on our weaknesses, we should be enhancing and exploiting our strengths? What if the price for working on weakness (and who even decides what is and isn't a "weakness"?) is less chance to be f'n amazing?
To which Will adds:
And maybe instead of standardizing mediocrity by making sure all of our kids can pass the same test, as educators we ought to think about ways to enhance their unique strengths so they can all achieve their individual amazingness.
As I blogged previously, I've been thinking about organzational effects on learning and teaching. The studies I mentioned in my blog post found a close relationship between organization type ("bureaucratic" or "communal") and student achievement. I wonder if there is also a relationship between "bureaucratic" organizational style and "working on weakness" philosophy?

Sizer, Gatto, Littky, meet Warlick, Richardson, Dieu

Reading Barbara Dieu's excellent overview about blogging in education made me reflect on some other reading I've been doing recently.

There is so much good stuff out there but it is still hard to find because of time constraints. I rarely do searches, and am often pointed to great sites by other bloggers, teachers, web-surfers, etc (rarely by colleagues, unfortunately, hardly any of whom are web-conscious, and only 1 of whom has a blog).

Recently I have been reading John Taylor Gatto and Ted Sizer and about Dennis Littky (some links are here )

These 3 people have ideas about educational change which in some ways are similar to, and impinge on, the kinds of ideas Dieu talks about in her article. For example, in "Horace's Hope", Ted Sizer writes about the boredom and meaningless that characterizes many high schools: students are earning credits merely by spending time in class (kinda like jail!). He urges changes that make the student the focus, that make as their top priority the intellectual development of ALL students' minds (regardless of race or socio-economic status) which means challenging students to learn to use their minds (much schooling is unchallenging and boring), that foster genuine understanding (as opposed to mere memorizing and regurgitation of facts). To attain these objectives he proposes small classes and schools; a narrower curriculum that explores topics deeply rather than superficially, and an interdisciplinary approach to learning (this idea is echoed by Howard Gardner and his Multiple Intelligences theory), which will accentuate the relations and connections, rather than dividing a school day up into 50-minute chunks of quite unconnected chunks of knowledge; having the students demonstrate their understanding by doing or making something and using this as their main assessment rather than relying solely on pencil and paper tests; collaboration between teachers to create a student-centred curriculum and to develop suitable assessment methods. All these changes require changes in the ways schools are organized and managed. Sizer quotes studies done that "characterized restructuring as the movement away from a bureaucratic or more traditional form of organization to a more communal one.

These 2 organizational definitions were introduced and tested in earlier work (Bryk and Driscoll, 1988; Lee, Smith, and Bryk, 1993). A bureaucratically organized high school is marked by its high degree of specialization and, frequently, its large size. Teachers work in separate departments or programs, with little collaboration; students choose from multiple and varied course offerings; and management and decision-making are handled in a top-down style. In contrast, a communally organized school is characterized by more personal contact and, frequently, by smaller size. Roles and tasks are more flexible, and teachers work together toward a common set of goals and share in decision-making. Students share a common curriculum. ...

Lee and Smith set out to determine whether schools incorporating elements of restructuring that move them toward a more communal organization have a positive effect on student achievement. Using available data, they were able to show beneficial effects on both achievement and equity through 10th grade. They then designed their second study to see if those effects were sustained throughout high school and to determine with more precision which aspects of organizational change were the most powerful. 'the results of the study were clear and consistent: schools that implemented three or more restructuring practices posted significantly higher academic achievement than other schools.'
the second study was able to determine that only a small set of school features actually accounted for the differences in learning related to restructuring.
The 4 features ... isolated... were classroom teaching that fosters active learning and students' construction as well as reproduction of knowledge; a narrow curriculum which offers little variability in academic courses; teachers who together take a high level of responsibility for student learning; and steady pressure on students to pursue academic excellence."

The changes made by Dennis Littky, principal of Thayer High School in New Hampshire, were very similar. He began by talking individually to all the students, and helped create individual learning plans for them with the help of advisors who were assigned to small groups of students.

It seems pretty clear that, while ed-tech teachers like Dieu and Dave Warlick and James Farmer and Will Richardson and many others who write on this subject, focus mainly on technological opportunities and potentials, and while they are also constantly talking about how use of these technologies must influence actual teaching practice, their whole approach, influenced as it is by open-source software and the democratic, community-building thinking that goes with it, has much in common with the ideas of Sizer and Littky. Gatto's point of view is more radical: he suggests that the powerful forces that created compulsory schooling are too implacable to allow of significant change. However, he worked in this system for 30 years, and the ways and means he devised share many similarities with Littky's and Sizer's: personalized learning plans and assignments (which of course means getting to know the students personally), networking with the local community in order to find mentors and apprenticeships for students, involve parents as much as possible, and so on.

Sizer formed the Coalition of Essential Schools, a loose organization of like-minded schools (Littky's Thayer High School was the first).

I imagine powerful forces being unleashed if the ed-tech people joined up with something like this Coalition!

February 08, 2006

Bullshit Literacy - an antidote to Dave Warlick?

The Blue Skunk does a nice turn here. After reading the below, pop on over to the Blue Skunk and add your embellishments to his Bullshit Literacy list. Thanks, Blue Skunk! Like all true artists, you have turned lemons (or bullshit) into something of value for others, without diminishing your pain and anger.

Doug Johnson's Blue Skunk Blog - Blue Skunk Blog - Bullshit Literacy:
New Media Consortium Global Imperative: the Report of the 21st Century Literacy Summit joins a couple others, including NCREL (Learning Point) eGauge 21st Century Skills and Partnership for 21st Century Skills, excoriating we simple educators for not doing an adequate job of preparing this current batch of kiddies for the big bad work world of the future.

If current employment trends continue, it looks like about 90% of our students will work for Wal-Mart where the most important job skills are:
- Looking good in a day-glow vest
- Passing drug screenings
- Living on the minimum wage, not getting ill, and coping with the relatives who are wiling to take them in.

For the other 10% of the workforce, their single, salient marketable skill will be knowing how to bullshit. (See professor Frankfurt’s definition above.) When, then, are the responsible think tanks going to call summits and issue papers addressing this serious gap in our schools’ curricula?

Innovate - latest edition

The February/March issue of Innovate is now available at

A number of interesting articles, including:
  • Susana M. Sotillo examines the usefulness of instant messaging in teaching English as a Second Language.

  • Pamela Taylor describes the use of hypertext webs in her art history

  • Sean Gouglas, Stéfan Sinclair, Olaf Ellefson, and Scott Sharplin describe a game authoring assignment that they used in their graduate humanities computing course.

  • P.G. Schrader, Dongping Zheng, and Michael Young examine student teachers' attitudes toward gaming and advocate the exploration of MMOGs (massively
    multiplayer online games) as educational tools in teacher preparation programs.

  • Rich Van Eck sees games as a possible way to involve girls more in technology and perhaps even improve their attitudes toward math and science.

  • Susan Crichton and Gail Kopp describe a distance education course for teacher training in Western China that utilizes multimedia to result in an interactive
    experience that brings together disparate groups spread across a vast nation into a supportive community of learning.

  • Stephen Downes concludes this issue, continuing his series on open source course management software

  • Finally, we now have a new section on special issues that features upcoming issues on open source software and ee-learning and a new section that alerts readers to upcoming conferences focusing on the use of information technology tools to enhance the educational process. This section will be continuously updated as conference material comes in.

February 07, 2006

Travelling Drip

Here's a cool collaborative, social networking idea!
Article page:
For the past couple of days I have been thinking about a sideline activity we used to have in my previous job (office environment with about 20 people in that section in their cubicles). We had a small maskot called Drip and he would travel to places with employees who were on vacation or taking a trip somewhere, The task was to take a picture of Drip in a specific location (such as against Chicago sky line or wherever he was), send the picture to everyone and we would need to figure out who had Drip and where he had been. Drip was passed from one person to another in secret. Do you think this would work as a blog task (modified of course)? Perhaps a challenge or a game...?

The FordLog; Gareth Davies on ‘Five Rules of Virtuality’

Good advice, I think, even taken out of context.
The FordLog: Gareth Davies on ‘Five Rules of Virtuality':
Give the kids control and don't lock things down;
* Stimulate idea creation, don't turn ICT into teaching ‘applications’;
* Look at what they do with computers, don't take the idea and impose rules and restrictions, but increase the contexts and opportunities to make it more fulfilling and rounded;
* Make kids self critical and responsible for pushing their personal standards up.

pupils teach the teachers

I got this message today from the AUTO-L email list:
Those of you teaching in high schools and concerned about motivating your students may be interested in an item in one of our Scottish daily newspapers today. It is a report on an in-service training day to be held this Friday in a school in Gourock near Glasgow which will be pupil-led:
teachers will be learning from pupils about what works in the classroom.
The Scottish Executive (civil service) has been working with a psychologist, Alan McLean, to develop support and resources for teachers in the area of
motivation, and this training day is part of it. Mr McLean is the author
of a book title "The Motivated School", but not having read it yet I can't pass comment. This is the link that came up when I googled the title:
(and here it is on Amazon UK)
I haven't been able to open the article online but it might be worth contacting the editors about getting a copy of the piece. It is in the 'Society' supplement of today's (07.02.06) "The Herald".

February 04, 2006

Smelly Knowledge | Exploring the depths of learning, identity, and community over technology.

I have a sense that the new communications technologies are having a powerful impact on our world, how we think, how we interact, how we relate to ourselves, to others and to information. Exactly what this impact is, however, I'm not clear about. I want to talk to people around me about it, but nobody seems to know what I'm talking about... So this caught my eye (I found it at Smelly Knowledge, who got if from here):

Smelly Knowledge | Exploring the depths of learning, identity, and community over technology.:
The most useful contribution of the Wikipedia isn't their networked search for a neutral portrait of truth, for this will always be flawed; it's the idea that the truth is inherently in flux. Just as we should approach the mass media with an incredulous eye, we should approach Wikipedia with an incredulous eye. With Wikipedia, however, we know that we need to – and this is an advance.

February 02, 2006

Learning has changed

Some interesting stuff in this post by George Siemens
Connectivism Blog:
The underlying assumption of corporate training and higher education centers on the notion that the world hasn't really changed.

But it has. Employees can't stay current by taking a course periodically. Content distribution models (books and courses) can't keep pace with information and knowledge growth. Problems are becoming so complex that they cannot be contained in the mind of one individual - problems are held in a distributed manner across networks, with each node holding a part of the entire puzzle.

How do we separate the learner from the knowledge? By focusing not on the content they need to know (content changes constantly and requires continual updating), but on the connections to nodes which continually filter and update content. Instead of buying a book on elearning, subscribe to Stephen's site, Maish's or Jay's blog (or elearnspace :)). Read a few wikipedia articles (and contribute), join discussion forums, a list serv, follow tags on technorati or del.icio.us, attend a virtual conference, take a few workshops...you get the idea. When we stop seeing knowledge as an entity that is possessed within a person and start to cast it as a function of elements distributed across a system, we notice a dramatic impact on the education process: the educator becomes a supporter (not the center), the content is not as critical as the connections, learners find value in their aggregated perspectives, learners become content creators, and learning is continuous, exploratory and sustained (not controlled or filtered by only one agent).

More on Littky

Google has helped me find some more articles about the Met School and Dennis Littky and the Big Picture Company and Elliot Washor, some of which I blogged previously.
Here are some more:
One student at a time: a deeply personalized Public High School

Standards and Variation - standards as opposed to standardization, a paper by Elliot Washor and Charles Mojkowski

Personalized Learning: Preparing HS students to create their futures, by Elliot Washor

Integrating Youth Development on Behalf of Vulnerable Youth: (PDF file) here's an excerpt that caught my eye - College retention represents another significant leakage point in the pipeline.... Of those students who enroll in college, only about 50% actually complete a bachelor's degree within 6 years... Colleges are struggling with the dual challenges of remediation and retention as increasing numbers of students arrive on campus under-prepared.

American Architectural Foundation Summit on School Design

American Architectural Foundation
There's an interesting conversation going on over here, that maybe has to do with some of the things I'm thinking about. I'm certainly thinking about curriculum, so I'm interested in The Met School which
has no classes, grades, or tests, but every student in the Met's first two graduating classes has been accepted to college.

I'm also interested in creating assignments based on students' own interest, creating learning paths that are meaningful for them, so I'm interested in Gatto's and Littky and Washor's designs which include internships, and so on.

After reading Doc, the story of Dennis Littky and the Thayer School in Winchester, New Hampshire, I'm also interested in school design, which includes curriculum and timetable. Littky (and Elliot Washor) both believe in the importance of dialogue, between school and students, between school and parents, between school and community. The importance of dialogue between teachers and students is to elicit students' interests, around which a suitable curriculum can be built. This is an idea I got from Gatto, and have been trying to put it into practice in some of my own classes.

The Architectural Foundation Summit event includes an mp3 of Littky's Big Picture co-founder, Elliot Washor. There's a lot I don't understand, so it's hard to jump into this conversation, but I want to hang out and listen some more.

Here's a radio show which includes an interview with Elliot Washor on the subject of small schools and local communities.